Etsy Photo Basics… People Who Need People

Now I delve into the difficult and sensitive subject of using real live people in your photos. When using live models is done well it’s great, but all too frequently its disturbing and downright bad.

A Real Live Human Being

Some of the arguments for using live models is that it gives the viewer a good sense in how the product will look like on them. There can be more “movement” in the photo and/or garment. Personally I think it depends on the item and how good the photograph is.

If you’re going to use a model…

  • Don’t decapitate them. It’s usually disturbing. If the decapitations is happening to keep the model identity anonymous, then use a mannequin.
  • Do not black out/blur out the face of your model. Once again, its very disturbing.
  • Make sure your model is not standing flat against a wall… not only boring but often looks like a mug shot that just needs a prison number.
  • Make sure your model stands out from the background. The photo needs to showcase the product, not look like a snapshot of your friends.
  • Make sure your model is clean. I know this sounds like a basic to-do, but I’m amazed at the number of models who look like they just climbed out of bed and haven’t showered in days.
  • Know your buyers… you might think that you’re targeting a hip funky teen crowd who doesn’t mind tons of tattoos and piercings… but it might be their grandmother who is shopping and you’re not endearing your shop to them. It’s important to remember that the people with the most disposable income are over the age of 30.
  • If you’re selling jewelry, undergarments, swimwear and even hats… you need to be careful. Many people consider this a big hygiene issue and do not want to buy products that have already been in someone’s ear, on their hair or on close to those “private” areas.
  • Use models that are average in size for garments… this means size 8 to 12. One of the biggest ways to turn away buyers is to have all your models be a size 0, very few people are actually this size. Your product might look fantastic on a size 2, but if your buyer can envision wearing it, they won’t buy it.
  • Make sure you’re focusing on the product… no point in shooting an entire body shot when you’re selling a neck scarf.

Below are two photos using models. The one on the left has several no-nos in it… the face is blurred, the model is flat to the camera, she is blending into the background. While looking at the photo on the left we can tell all sorts of things about the seller… she likes crystal, has a fireplace, etc. The photo on the right is the correct use of a model. The model is not decapitated nor blurred. The photo is focused on the product. The model is not blending into the background.


The Good, The Bad and the Manic Mannequin

On the other side of the coin is the mannequin debate. Some prefer using a mannequin as they feel it gives a look of consistency in their shop. There is no hygiene issue with mannequins. But, some people are freaked out by mannequins.

If you’re going to use a mannequin…

  • You’re better off with a featureless mannequin, a dress form, or a torso.
  • Stay away from the scary manic mannequin, you’ll just scare away customers.
  • Make sure your mannequin is not blending in with the surroundings.
  • Be careful of how your photo is cropped. Decapitated mannequins can be disturbing too.

Below are two photos showing the use of a mannequin. On the left the mannequin is blending into the background making the product hard to see. The photographer also tried to use an odd angle. Unfortunately it makes the mannequin look like it’s tipping backward. The photo on the left is a good use of a mannequin. The product stands out from the background.


You Baby/Child is Cute But…

A big pet peeve from a lot of buyers on Etsy is the abuse/overuse of the cute baby. Cute babies and children pop up on all sorts of listings, whether or not the listing is child oriented. While cuteness has always been a selling tactic, it can get stale fast.

If you’re going to use your baby/child in a photo…

  • Make sure your product is oriented toward a baby or a child. I’ve seen photos of babies selling yarn… ewwww is all I can say to having a naked baby on yarn I might be buying.
  • Make sure your photo is focused on the product and not the baby. There is no need to shoot the whole naked baby when you’re selling a hat.
  • Have variety in your poses, the same curled up baby ala Anne Geddes is boring.
  • If you must blur your child’s face so they can’t be identified… then don’t use them.

Below are samples babies selling products. On the left… are we selling the baby, the hat, or the photography studio? The right is a good example of using a child, the product is for a hat.


Give ‘Em A Hand or Not

Another popular photo “prop” is using hands. Once again I think it depends on what you’re selling. If you’re selling gloves, mittens, cuffs, etc. I can see using hands in your photo. But too often I see hands holding up products or cupping products, etc. I find this instance of hand use disrupting. Most times the viewer will find themselves focusing on the hands and not the product. One comment I recently saw in the forums… “I don’t want to see someone’s hairy knuckles and dirty fingernails trying to sell me something.” Common sense would dictate that you would have at least clean hands. Let’s face it… most of us do not have the prettiest hands… they are calloused, scarred, wrinkled and vein-y. That’s why there are professional hand models. If you can, keep your hands out of your photos.

The Endless Debate

Model versus mannequin is and will be an endless debate. Whichever method you choose, make sure you are taking good photos that highlight your product, not the model nor the mannequin.


2 Responses to “Etsy Photo Basics… People Who Need People”

  1. Great tips – thanks! I’m working on opening an Etsy shop right now and I’m having photos taken this weekend. These tips will definitely come in handy!

  2. Helpful post. Thanks for posting examples too!

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